Santa, bring me a dream…
  |  First Published: December 2011

What I’d like for Christmas is the same weather every week of the Summer: Friday to Monday, clear, bright days with a cooling, light nor’-easter each afternoon, a Tuesday arvo storm followed by a gentle and refreshing southerly change dropping about 20mm of light rain, and then the cloud would clear late on Thursday.

That way, we could head offshore or fish the beaches over the long weekends, smack the bass on Tuesdays before the storm blew through, and lure-fish the clear estuaries under cool cloud the rest of the week. Perchance to dream…

That’s the way I seem to remember the Decembers of my youth in these parts, but over the past few years the holiday period has been dominated by weeks of cloudy days, rain and incessant onshore winds. It’s time for a change, I say!

Those southerly winds help to blow the Eastern Australia Current onto the coast here, overpowering the cool upwelling that often dominates early Summer south of Cape Byron.

The bait schools are already here, with heaps of slimy mackerel offshore and some shoals of white pilchards working along the surf line.

I’ve heard unconfirmed rumours about spotted mackerel down at Shark Bay and they should certainly visit, at least briefly, this month if those southerlies keep the good water inshore.

In the meantime, those towing around live baits have enjoyed themselves bothering sharks, kingfish, cobia and even mulloway. Stop the boat and anchor and lay out a berley trail, or trail a sea anchor and drift with plastics, and there are still plenty of good snapper about.

Out wider, there have been healthy supplies of pearl perch and snapper on the deeper reefs and kings and amberjack farther out, but the current is starting to run hard so the deeper bottom stuff is becoming harder to fish.

Luckily, mahi mahi and billfish, especially baby black marlin, come into their own this month, and the FADs off Byron, Ballina and Evans Head will be well worth visiting.

There could be harsh words exchanged out around the FADs late this month as the holiday boat traffic becomes thicker.

Don’t hog the ‘hot’ spot right on the structure for any number of reasons. Getting too close can put down the fish that are in tight to the float and mahi mahi can wise up very fast to boat traffic and poorly presented bait and lures.

Better to stand off within casting distance and work a bait or lure with some stealth and subtlety. Once hooked up, drift away from the FAD and let someone else have a crack.

It’s also worth remembering that bigger, smarter mahi mahi are often found some distance away from the FAD, frequently several hundred metres, so work the whole area well.

Back on the coast, we should see the last of the salmon heading back to their more normal habitat. Whiting and dart are now the surf mainstay although there will be bream around the rocky areas and hopefully some tailor will have less competition at smashing up the bait schools.


As long as big rain stays away, the estuaries are picking up very nicely with early forays into the mangrove jacks and popper sessions on the whiting proving quite rewarding for most participants.

I saw a couple of young blokes fishing big chunk baits around a reef in the Evans River the other day who had a sorry tale to tell about a wham-bam fish. There were also schools of GTs and bigeye trevally ripping into the showering baitfish every few minutes, adding to the carnage.

The crabbers have been working a fair way upstream and the Richmond River is taking a while to warm up, courtesy of some cool mini-freshes coming down from the storms in the Border Ranges.

Whiting have been slow on the uptake in the Richmond, with North Creek and the sandy areas in the main river below the ferry best so far, but the fish should be right at home sucking down bloodworms on the deep flats at Pimlico this month.

Where the school jewfish have gone is nobody’s business, certainly not mine – I can’t seem to buy a bite from one for the last month or so. My guess is that one patch has moved well upstream, to Woodburn and beyond, while a school of smaller ‘soapies’ has been working around from Pimlico to Wardell.

At least the flatties in the middle reaches have been rewarding, with plenty of school fish of 40cm to about 65cm following the prawn schools. These aren’t the breeders that are doing their thing in the lower river around the walls – most of the fish I kept for a feed were male, apart from one 55cm fish that turned out to be female with undeveloped roe.

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